Tuesday, 9 December 2008

No longer a lone voice?

The number of academics that have been lining up to proclaim the end of terrace housing over the last decade is too long to publish. But the corrollary of the idea that terrace housing has had its day is the notion that 'something better' must replace it. Welcome to the world of proprty led regeneration. This is where local authorities and developers get their hands on working class houses for next to nothing (this is what a compulsory purchase order is for) and then build 'high value' housing on it which secures super profits for both of them. Don't think it is only the developers that secure the profits in this. Local authorities also profit from these schemes; they take a share of the increased value of the redeveloped land and also charge higher council tax rates on the 'high value' houses that have been built in place of working class homes. So you thought the poll tax was bad? Well the council tax actually encourages local authorities to kick working class people out of their houses and to replace them with households that have money. But I digress.

The point is that there are no end of academics that have proclaimed this to be a good thing, and that have encouraged it. They sell their services as 'consultants' that have the 'expertise' to demonstrate that this is necessary because their 'social science' says it is, and because it is in the 'public interest'. What we have had in the last few years, then, are people like Professor Michael Parkinson of Liverpool John Moores University saying things like this about the latest property-led regeneration schemes in the city: "I cried when I saw it". So, Professor Parkinson is such a disciple of property led regeneration that he is reduced to tears of joy when placed in sight of its latest triumph. As if to bolster the view that property led regeneration is a raging success, Parkinson has also said things like this: "Many key players believe that Liverpool has dramatically improved its performance in recent years. Do the hard figures bear out their confidence? In fact, they do" (M. Parkinson, in report commissioned by Liverpool Vision, 2008).

It is interesting, then, that this is a summary of Parkinson's contribution to the recent Northern Regen Summit: Parkinson told delegates that the old way of carrying out regeneration development is gone. "City centre apartments, buy-to-let and volume housebuilders [have driven] the regeneration economy," he said. "That model is frankly dead." see http://www.regen.net/bulletins/Regen-Daily-Bulletin/News/858288/Dont-cherry-pick-quick-fixes-Northern-Summit-warned/

Readers, I am concerned that authorities such as Liverpool City Council are continuing with their schemes to knock down good houses that house good people when even some of the consultants that encouraged them to do this now seem to be changing their minds. Terrace housing obsolete? I don't think so. And I am clearly not the only one that does not think so.

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